SYDNEY (AFP) – Extinction Rebellion activists began gathering in cities across Australia and New Zealand on Monday to kick off a fortnight of global civil disobedience demanding governments take urgent action on climate change.
Protesters held a silent vigil on the steps of state parliament in Melbourne early Monday ahead of a march through the southern Australian city.
In Sydney, hundreds of protesters staged a sit-in on a busy inner-city road, while a small group of activists locked themselves to a bridge in Brisbane.
Meanwhile demonstrators shut down part of Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, by chaining themselves to a bright pink car.
They were the start of planned disruptions in 60 cities around the world over the next two weeks by Extinction Rebellion, which is warning of a looming environmental “apocalypse”.
Thousands are expected to join other events this week in Australia, including a bee die-off enactment, a nude parade and a funeral procession for the planet.
“We have tried petitions, lobbying and marches, and now time is running out,” Australian activist Jane Morton said.
“We have no choice but to rebel until our government declares a climate and ecological emergency and takes the action that is required to save us.”
Australia is ruled by a conservative government that has resisted taking comprehensive action to tackle climate change, while backing lucrative coal exports.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison last month snubbed a United Nations climate summit after he was not invited to speak because of his lack of new climate announcements.
Extinction Rebellion’s tactics in Australia have prompted senior conservative politicians to call for protesters’ welfare payments to be cut and for public denunciations.
“People should take these names and the photos of these people and distribute them as far and wide as they can so that we shame these people,” Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said on radio last week.
In the northern state of Queensland, home to huge coal mines and Dutton’s electorate, harsher penalties are being considered in response to the regular disruption of peak-hour traffic.
Extinction Rebellion has scheduled non-violent protests chiefly in Europe, North America and Australia over the next fortnight.